"Wow, thanks Vin," JD said, as he turned over the new/used spyglass in his hand and pulled out the telescoping part to make sure everything worked.
"Sokay kid. Figured youd like it. Thought of you the minute I saw it."
"What do I owe ya? Dont got a lot of cash right now, but maybe I can do somethin for ya, like take some patrols or. . ."
Watching as his friend shook his head no, JD thanked him again and the two loitered at the counter, talking to the pretty barmaid Inez.
Moments ago, Vin had come into the saloon after being gone a few days north, delivering some papers to the sheriff in the mining town of Prospect. Nodding his head in greeting to the peacekeepers sitting around their table, he had motioned for JD to come over to the bar and then proceeded to hand him the spyglass, their actions looking as if the tracker had just given it to JD as a gift.
"What do ya suppose thats all about?" Buck asked the men at the table, curious as to what was going on between the two men.
"Looks like Vin gave JD something. We miss the boys birthday or some other occasion?" Josiah asked.
"Dont think so," the ladies man answered, as he watched the young sheriff pocket the spyglass.
"Well, seeing as how Mr. Tanner is somewhat of a mentor for Mr. Dunne in the tracking department, it would seem a perfect gift for him, whatever the reason," Ezra put in.
"Yeah, but I know for a fact Vin aint got enough money to rub two nickels together, so wonder how he got it," Buck mused, more to himself than to anyone.
"You know Vin," Nathan said. "Probably took it as a payment for somethin he done for someone."
Nodding his head in agreement, but still curious, Buck started to get up from the table but noticed the two men were heading their way, drinks in hand.
"Boys," Vin said, giving them a nod in greeting and pulling up a chair next to Chris.
"Everything alright?" the man is black asked, raising his hooded eyes to meet Vins.
"Yep," replied the ex-bounty hunter, taking a long drink of his beer.
Buck watched JD for a few minutes, then cleared his throat and began drumming his fingers on the table all the while sending glances back and forth between Vin and JD.
"What?" asked JD, finally. "Somethin botherin you Buck?"
As the other men turned their eyes upon JD and Buck, Chris watched Vin from the corner of his eye, seeing a slight upturn of the mouth, then watched the face disappear as his friend pulled his hat over his eyes and slouched down in the chair, a sure sign that he was either going to take a snooze, or he was hiding something. For some reason, his gut told him it was the latter.
"Well, not really," said Buck, glancing over at the sharpshooter. "Just saw Vin give you his spyglass and wondered if maybe you were headed out somewhere." I am so good, he thought to himself, figuring hed worded it just right so as not appear to be too nosy, as he looked at JD and gave his big shoulders a shrug, "thats all."
"Oh, this is mine, Vin gave it to me," JD said, bringing the spyglass out of his pocket and handing it to Buck. "Said he won it over there in Prospect from a man named Parker."
Ezras hands stilled in mid shuffle and he straightened up in his chair "Parker? AJ Parker?"
Chriss hand went up to pinch the bridge of his nose. Why did he have the feeling that a baited line had just been tossed out with a hook on the end of it waiting for this exact bite?
"Dont know," JD said, with a shrug. "Just said Parker."
"Who the hell. . .," Buck started to say but was rudely ignored by the conman who was trying to get the trackers attention.
Looking over at the relaxed, slouched tracker, Ezra snuck a peek at Chris first, then leaned over the table and called to Vin trying to get his attention. When the tracker failed to be recognized, the conman had to lower himself to practically yelling out his name drawing the attention of nearly everyone in the saloon to the antics at the sevens table.
Pulling the brim of his hat up, Vin looked at Ezra through narrowed eyes.
"Dont have ta yell Ez, Im right here," he said, causing grins and snickers to come from the other men. "Whats got yer knickers all in a knot anyway?"
Settling back in his chair Ezra said, "I do not have my. . .as you call them. . .knickers in a knot, Mr. Tanner. I was just trying to ascertain if you had played cards with a Mr. AJ Parker while you were in Prospect."
"Nope," came the reply, as the head dipped down once again. "Was just a little game of chance," he ended, with a muffled response.
An elegant eyebrow arched in curiosity, and the conmans wheels begin to spin.
And the fish are beginning to circle, grinned Chris into his whiskey glass. Pushing back in his seat, he turned slightly so that he could stretch out his legs on an extra chair in order to get more comfortable for the entertainment he knew was coming. Tanner was setting up Standish, hed bet on it, maybe Buck too, he wasnt sure and he couldnt tell if anyone else was in on it with him or if Vin was going solo. He just knew he couldnt wait.
Ezra looked at Buck and Buck looked at Ezra.
"A game of chance? What kind of game? Didnt have anything to do with shootin did it? Cuz, if it did, this AJ Parker must not be too bright of a man, I mean. . ."
"Well, dont keep us all in in suspense, Mr. Tanner," Ezra said, effectively cutting off the questioning rogue as well as getting to the meat of the question. "What game of chance did you play, perhaps I am acquainted with it."
"Doubt it," came the muffled answer. "Learned it off a pack of gypsies."
"Excuse me? A pack of gypsies?" the southerner repeated.
Nathan took a puff on his cigar and Josiah cleared his throat. Both knew something was going on and neither could believe that Ezra nor Buck couldnt see the same thing. The two men were falling right into whatever it was that the tracker was setting them up for. So they too, relaxed back and waited for the fun to begin, or the punch line to be delivered, or whatever was going to happen.
Vin pushed his hat back up off his eyes and sat up with an exasperated sigh.
"Yeah, a pack of gypsies. Met em about five years ago whilst I was bounty huntin. Was gonna take one of em in, but got ta talkin to em and found out I had the gift and. . ."
"The gift? What the hells the gift?" Buck wanted to know, interrupting the trackers story.
Looking over at Buck, Vin put his hands out on top of the table. "The gift, ya know, when you can read things."
A black boot hit the floor with a thud and Vin glanced over to his friend.
"Youve heard of the gift aint ya Chris?"
"Heard of it, aint never seen it though. You got that Vin?" the man in black asked, their eyes meeting and a silent message passed.
Ezra looked at Buck and Buck looked at Ezra, again.
"Would you be interested in showing us this gift that you have, Mr. Tanner?" Ezra asked, leaning forward once again, his eyes bright with anticipation.
The corners of Larabees mouth twitched. Hes got a nibble.
Looking first at the gambler, then at the rogue, who was nodding his head in a yes fashion, he took a few minutes to think and then shook his head no.
"Reckon not, think Im too tired. Been a hell of a long day." He started getting up to leave but was stopped by Ezras next words.
"Just as well. It stands to reason that a man of Mr. Parkers reputation was just probably playing along and let you win this little . . . game of yours anyway," the gambler said, looking at the tracker, grinning enough to show off his gold tooth and then beginning to shuffle his cards again.
The challenge hung in the air.
Sitting back down in his chair, Vin breathed in deeply and let it out. "One time. Well do this one time and thats it. Got some coins? Need nine of em."
"Certainly," came the answer, as the gambler dug in his pocket for some coins.
Vin took the coins and began to arrange them on the table. "Two rules when I do this; one is that the coins have ta stay just like I got em here and the other is that you kin only touch one of em."
"Alright," Ezra said, as he looked at the tracker and waited for further instructions, his body almost quivering in anticipation.
Finishing what he was doing, Vin said, "Ill look away, you touch a coin, just one," he reminded him, "and then Ill tell ya which one ya picked."
Vin turned around, managing to sneak at wink at Chris before resting his eyes on the back wall.
"Okay, done," said Ezra.
Vin turned back around and looked at the coins closely, then skimmed the palm of his hand over the coins, not touching them, but close to it. Finally his hand stopped and he flicked out a coin, sending it to Ezra.
"That thered be the one," he said, as the men at the table gasped. Rising from his chair again, he started away from the table. "Night boys, he said, with a tip of his hat.
"Well, Ill be a monkeys uncle. How in the hell did you do that Vin?" Buck asked, as he toyed with his moustache and looked at the remaining coins, then squinted at the tracker.
"Wow! That was so cool! So thats how you won the spyglass," was JDs comments.
Nathan looked at Josiah and Josiah looked at Nathan. "That was some trick Vin, Josiah said, as he gave his face splitting grin to the man as he passed by him and Nathan nodded his agreement.
"Trick being the key word here," Ezra said. "Either that or else it was pure luck. Bet you couldnt do it again," he said to the trackers back.
And the fish takes a big bite, thought Chris, smiling as he watched the roles being played out.
Another challenge, this one clearly spoken.
Vin stopped, rolled his shoulders, turned and looked at the gambler who met his eyes with a taunting gaze.
"You do it again you can keep all the coins," Ezra said and then added, "be enough for a couple of drinks anyway," knowing that a man low on funds wouldnt turn that offer down.
"Alrighty then," he said, coming back to the table and watching as the gambler arranged the coins just as hed been instructed before.
Turning his body to look at the back wall, he caught Larabees eye again, and gave a lopsided smirk and another quick wink.
Chris just shook his head and took another sip of his drink watching as Ezra took his time deciding on which coin he was going to touch.
"Aint got all night Ez, cant be that hard," groused the tracker as he shifted on his feet.
"Im thinking, just a minute. . .okay, you may now turn around Mr. Tanner," he said, watching the man to make sure he wasnt getting any cues from anyone else in the saloon.
Vin peered at the coins, then ran his hand close to the top of them, making a few sweeps over the coins.
"Hmmm. . .musta touched it lightly, kinda hard to find," he said, knowing that the gambler was hanging on his every word. Finally his hand stopped and he picked up a coin.
"Reckon this would be the one," he said, flipping it to the open mouthed southerner.
"Well, Ill just be damned, he did it again," said Buck, his mouth catching the same flies as Ezras.
Nathan grinned big this time and Josiah slapped his knee, loving it all. JD took a sip of his beer and sat back in his chair, totally amazed.
Gathering up his coins, Vin was about to say goodnight again, when he was stopped by the stuttering gambler who tried in all sorts of ways to come up with a reason for his "luck".
"Ez, its a gift, aint no luck."
"Whats with the hands? What does that do?" Buck wanted to know.
"Somethin with the heat, see I kin feel the heat of what yer hands have touched. Its how I read em," he said, and listened to the huff of disbelief coming from Standish.
"What about bills?"
"Can you do this with bills? Paper money?" Ezra said, rubbing his thumb and forefinger together.
A shrug of the shoulders. "Dont know, reckon I never tried that."
Reaching into his pocket, the gambler pulled out a wad of bills and peeled off nine of them.
And there goes the sinker. Hook, line and sinker. Chris hadnt a clue as to how Vin was pulling this off, hed have to ask him sometime, just knew it was damn entertaining.
Putting the bills down the same way as before like with the coins, Ezra then instructed Vin to walk away, not looking to the back like he did, but to go some other way, the mans mind working, trying to come up with some solution as to how the tracker was picking the correct item.
Taking his time once again, he picked up a bill, then motioned for Buck to move a bill over so he could put down the bill he had in that same spot. "Didnt say you couldnt touch one, he whispered, nodding to Buck.
Calling to Vin, he watched the ex-bounty hunter come over and observed him closely, seeing the frown and the squinting of the eyes as the man appeared to have some trouble picking out which bill hed touched.
"Ifn I pick the right one, do I keep ta keep the bills?" Vin asked, as he pulled his hand back and looked at the gambler.
"By all means, if you pick the right one. However, if you pick the wrong one, you, oh say, have to take my patrol for me tomorrow afternoon?"
Nodding his head in agreement, Vin went back to his "searching" for the right bill. As his hand hovered over one, he took a quick peek at Standish, but noticed the poker face and went back to "searching".
A small grin was beginning to form on the gamblers lips believing that he had finally out conned the tracker, but it began to wane and disappeared altogether as he watched Vins hand stop over the correct bill and pick it up. Meeting the blue eyes that grinned at him he heard him say triumphantly, "think this would be the one."
"Ez? Hey Ez, this is the right one, right?" Vin asked him again, waving the bill in front of the gamblers stunned face.
All he got in return was a grunt of an answer.
Snickers and grins came from the other five men and Ezra shot a glare over to the ladies man.
"Think you finally met your match Ezra," Nathan said, stubbing out his cigar. "And Ive had enough excitement for one night."
"Me too, brother, me too," Josiah said, following the healers lead. "Dont know how you do it Vin, but it sure is entertainin," the big man said, with another grin.
"Wait a minute, wait a minute," Ezra said, snapping his fingers. Well have each one of us try it and see if it works, maybe its just my hands," he said, looking at and rubbing his fingertips together.
"Sorry Ezra, I aint gamblin away any of my money, not on a sure bet like this," Nathan said, and Josiah agreed with him.
JD put his hands up in the air saying he didnt have any money to be gambling with either so that left Buck or Chris and one look at Larabee told him he wouldnt get any help there, so it was up to the ladies man.
"Admit it Mr. Wilmington, you are as perplexed at this oddity as much as I am," Ezra said, seeing the rogue stroking his moustache once again and knowing he was trying to figure this out as much as he himself was.
"Did he just call me odd?" Vin said, looking to Chris with a raised eyebrow and a smile in his eyes.
"Think maybe he did," Chris replied, meeting the grin with one of his own and lighting up a cheroot, knowing this wasnt quite over with yet. Buck had yet to be drug into this and it looked as though that was about to happen in just a few seconds. Should be over by the time he got done with his smoke.
"Alright Ill bite, the rogue said, slapping the table with his hands. Sitting up straight in his chair, he told the gambler, "Hell, we can even use my money if you think thatll do it, but, the stakes have to be higher though," he added, looking at Vin.
Shaking his head, Vin told them that they should just quit, they werent going to win anyway, which, of course, fueled the fire even more.
"You, Mr. Tanner, can name your price. Whatever you wish. . .within reason, of course," Ezra said, getting a nod of agreement from Buck.
Vin pursed his lips, frowning and made a big deal out of thinking what he wanted to put on the line.
"Reckon aside from takin yer money, Ill just have you boys take my patrols for a coupla days." He knew that was something theyd really hate because he took most of the early morning and/or late night ones. Either one would put a crimp in both of their styles.
Looking over at JD, he grinned and added, "and then ya kin take JDs too for the next coupla days."
"Now wait a minute, thats quite abit to put on the table," Buck said, looking from Vin to Ezra and then to JD and back to Ezra again.
"Yer choice, you said I was ta name the price and thats it. Me and JDs patrols against yours and Ezs patrols, and the money. You git the money back ifn ya win, otherwise I get ta keep it. That there would be the stakes boys. Take em or leave em. Im willin ta end this ifn you are."
Vin sat back in his chair and folded his hands over his belly while he waited for Buck and Ezra to come to an understanding. The two men had moved so that they were sitting side by side and now whispered to each other deciding on what plan of action they were going to take. Chris sat smoking his cheroot sending o-rings up into the air and JD left to get another beer.
Finally the two men nodded their heads in agreement and decided to take Vin up on his offer. They were going to outfox the man, they were sure of it.
While sending Vin into the back room, Buck added some of his cash to Ezras, mixing up the bills so as not to know whos was whos, making sure they both touched all the money, after all, maybe there was something in or on the gamblers hands that gave him away. They also chased away any patrons that wore glasses not knowing if the tracker was seeing something reflected in another mans eye ware. The two didnt dare tell Chris to move to another table, its not like he would cheat anyway and they figured hed stay just to make sure they followed Vins directions and that they were honest about what bill they had touched. They did, however, make JD take his beer and move to the next table, not quite sure if the young man was in on this or not. Basically, they just werent going to trust anyone. No way did they want to take three or four extra patrols. So, after choosing which bill they were going to use, they put it down in their secret spot and then Buck went to get Tanner.
Vin came in, noticing that the patrons were cleared out away from the table and that even JD had been moved to another spot. Ducking his head and grinning, he moved to sit in his chair.
"Now Vin, me and Ezra think you should stand over there by Chris with your back to him, just to make sure, you understand, we dont want you to get distracted," he added, when he saw Larabee take his feet off the extra chair and turn around to glare at him.
Vin shrugged and did as they told him, standing so that he couldnt see Chris and then he looked at the bills. Putting his hand out over the bills, he frowned and muttered something about it not seeming to work anymore. He pulled his hands back and rubbed them together in a washing kind of motion and then tried again.
"Havin problems there Vin?" Buck asked, as he and Ezra watched and looked at each other, grinning, sure in the fact that they wouldnt be doing any patrols for the next couple of days.
As Vin took his time, squinting at the bills, the two gamblers thought about their next couple of days. Ezra getting to spend more time at the tables and sleeping longer and Buck thinking about sleeping too, only trying to decide on which bed to head to first.
"Well boys, guess youve got me stumped on this one," the tracker said, as he gave the impression he was going to give up. Straightening up, he was just about to walk away, when suddenly he picked up one of the bills and held it aloft. . .
+ + + + + + +
"Man, I can still see the looks on their faces thinking you were going to walk away and then bam! You picked up the right bill," JD snickered, as he and Vin stretched out on the warm rock, their fishing poles beside them. "You sure had them thinking they were going to have a couple days off, and instead, here we are. This is great Vin, thanks."
"Welcome kid. Couldnt have done it without ya though. We make a pretty good team."
Riding alongside the lake while heading out to his place, Chris stopped and watched as the two youngest peacekeepers fished and had a good time. He didnt know how his good friend had pulled it off, Vin was someone he knew, but didnt, if that made any sense. There were a lot of layers to the man. Tanner constantly amazed him and now here was another one of those layers; Vin Tanner - con artist. Grinning and giving his head a shake, he tapped the sides of his horse and moved on. If there was anything about a "gift" in that whole situation, it was Vin himself. He, for sure, was a gift, no doubt about it.
Note: A big thank you to my hubby who told me about this little gag that he did on some of his co-workers and I decided I just had to do a little story on it.
The Gift - Epilogue
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